Winter's Rose Chapter Eighteen

Previously: "No, no I don't." Joseph, who had caught sight of three riders, stepped away from the wall and pointed in the direction that Heath, Nick and Rose were coming. "Guess we're about to find out just how hard it will be."

Jarrod, who had looked in the same direction the moment Mr. Diamond pointed, stood up and prayed for the best.

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Heath was relieved to see Jarrod standing on the steps of the Diamond home, though he could only wonder who the old man was. However, his relief was short lived as he saw the look that leapt into Rose's eyes…the cloudy look that always signaled Delilah was at least near the surface! Heath's heart skipped a beat and he pulled up on the reins.

Seeing his brother stop, and not recognizing the signs Heath had learned well, Nick hesitated. He was confused, "What's…"

Before Nick could say another word, before Heath had a chance to say anything, Delilah took over. One minute Rose was next to Heath, the next second Delilah had turned her horse to the right and had taken off.

"Rose!" Heath yelled, even though he knew it was Delilah who had taken over, and pushed Charger as hard as he could. He could hear Nick following behind him. It took a minute, but Heath soon had the young woman out of the saddle. He meant to grab her and sit her in front of him, but somehow the both landed on the ground, only feet away from the drop of a deep ravine. Heath and Rose's horses had skittered and turned sharply, avoiding the edges by mere inches.

"Go after Charger!" Heath yelled to Nick as he grabbed Rose. Nick did as he was asked while Heath found himself fighting to keep Miss Diamond in his grasp.

"Let go of me you, bastard! I'm not Rose, and you know it!" Delilah screamed as she managed to slip out of Heath's hands. Looking behind Heath she saw Jarrod and her grandfather hurrying towards them.

"You! You sent for him somehow! You want to send me away!" Delilah's eyes darted around in both panic and anger. Seeing they were standing close to the ledge, Delilah's eyes filled with hate as she started for Heath and headed for him. "You'll see what turning on me gets…"

Her sentence was cut short as Rose shocked both Heath and herself by speaking up. "No, you don't! I won't let you kill or hurt him!"

Heath was horrified to see Delilah, who literally looked as if someone was pushing her from behind, fall towards the ledge of the steep drop. Just as Rose, in his mind's eye it was Rose, lost her balance, Heath jumped and caught her arms. Alas, her feet still lost their footing. In a matter of seconds Rose was hanging from the ledge and Heath was holding onto her hands. He was grateful he was lying on a part of the ground where the snow had actually melted, yet still firm from the winter's freeze.

"Hold on Heath!" Jarrod screamed as he hurried even faster to get to his blonde hair brother. Nick, who had caught up with Charger and Rose's horses, was also hurrying back.

"Hold on Rose! Help is coming!" Heath looked at Rose… the cloudy look in her eyes had gone so he knew Delilah had fled.

Having accepted Delilah was a part of her and knowing that she, Delilah, had attempted to kill Heath, Rose cried out, "No! Forgive me, Heath, please! You save me and you save Delilah! If Delilah is saved, she'll make everyone's life miserable and she will, somehow, kill you. I know she will!" She started to let go of Heath's hands.

Heath tightened his grip; he couldn't let her fall. "Hold on, Rose!" He begged her. "Don't let Delilah win!"

Tears ran down Rose's cheeks as she cried out, "Don't you see! She'll win either way. If I choose life for myself, she'll kill you! I can't let that happen, Heath! I love you! I can't let Delilah hurt you!" Rose finished yelling just as Jarrod, Nick and her grandfather got to Heath. Before any of them could do a thing Rose succeeded in pulling her arms out of Heath's grasp. Heath cried out in vain, his brothers, along with Mr. Diamond, let out gasps as Rose fell to a pathway four one hundred feet from the cliff.

Epilogue

Heath sat on the corral fence as the sun began to set. After Rose had fallen to her death, he, Nick and Jarrod had managed to retrieve her body and take it into Strawberry.

When Jarrod found out what "Delilah" had claimed, what Rose had been unable to confirm, he insisted on contacting the doctor and seeing if he would be able to tell them, if the woman had been with child or not. Jarrod pointed out that one way or the other Heath had to know as it would be the only way for Heath to have any closure from this experience.

Afterwards, they'd traveled back up to the Diamond home and buried Rose next to her brother and parents before traveling back to Stockton.

Nick, who had come out of the house looking for Heath, sighed when saw where his younger brother was. He crossed the yard, walked up beside Heath and leaned forward against the fence. "You gonna be all right?" Nick didn't know why he asked the question; Heath had a way of, eventually, bouncing back from ordeals that would kill most folk's spirit.

Heath slowly turned his head to look at Nick. Nick could see the sadness still resided in his brother's eyes. Heath shrugged his shoulders and answered, "I will be in time. I keep telling myself she's actually better off now. I mean, she doesn't have to worry about living in one of those blasted hospitals or having 'Delilah' causing her any problems, spreading more of her lies." Heath turned his head away. Lies. The doctor had confirmed what both Nick, Jarrod and Joseph Diamond had all suspected…there had been no child.

Nick laid his hand upon Heath's upper arm as he gave him and gave it a squeeze. Nick wished he knew what to say to help… only he didn't. However, he knew who just might have more success than anyone. Nick pulled out a small book Joseph Diamond had found in Rose's room. The old man had given it to Heath, but his brother had yet to read it. Nick had retrieved it from Heath's bedside and now handed the journal to Heath and said quietly, "If Mr. Diamond said you should read it, and I think you should do it." Nick then climbed over the fence and went to work with one of the horses.

Heath looked at the book in his hands. A part of him begged him not to read it, the rest of him carefully ran his fingers alongside the bookmark Mr. Diamond had put in the book and opened it up.

Delilah is back. I saw her last night. As grateful as I am that Heath is here with me, that he loves me, I wish this would all end. I'm tired of her, tired of her coming around and making trouble for me and whoever I care about. Oh, there was a time I suppose I needed her, even wished for her, but that's been years ago. Now all I want is some peace, a place where 'she' couldn't bother me or cause trouble for those I love. Except for when I'm lying next to Heath or having a snowball fight with him, I feel like a flower that winter has claimed for its own. Why? Flowers die in the winter and, unless I'm with Heath, I feel dead. Maybe, I am. How I wish I could find some peace of mind.

Heath's eyes turned to the words on the next page and read the last few words Rose had written in the book. Heath talked about getting married today. I know it's because we lay together, and he's not the kind of man to do that to a woman and just walk away from her. I love him as much as I know how to, but I have a feeling we will never marry. If those feelings are right, if something happens to prevent us from marrying, I hope he will put this behind him and find someone who can stand by him and share his burdens, not be one. Heath deserves to be happy. God bless him. There was nothing else after that. Heath ran his fingers along the last words that Rose had written, stopping at the entry date; the night before "Delilah" had appeared.

Heath shut the book. I feel like a flower that winter has claimed for its own. Why? Flowers die in the winter… Rose's words rang in his ears. A few tears ran down his face as he looked up at the blue sky filled with white fluffy clouds. "Flowers might die in the winter, but you're one winter Rose that will live forever." Heath said softly before he climbed off the fence and called to Nick, while throwing him a small crooked smile, and said that he would be back after he put the journal in a safe place… in other words somewhere where Nick couldn't find it. Heath promised to come out and help as soon as he finished the task.

"He's going to be fine, Nick." McCall walked up beside him, thrilled to see Heath smile as hed said he would be back out. After all, "the boy" hadn't smiled in any form at least three weeks!

Nick, who was also thrilled to see his brother smile even a little, grinned and answered, "Yea, he'll be fine." He turned back to his work and silently added, "He always is."

THE END